Sermon for the Holy Communion

5th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 8, Year A. July 2, 2023.
Scripture: Gen 22:1-14, Mat 10:40-42

Rev. Misa Furumoto

“Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” These were Jesus’ last words given to his disciples just before he sent them out to do their missionary work. Prior to these words, Jusus is giving them quite harsh instructions and scary notice, such as “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans”, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town”, “I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”, “They will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues”, “you will be hated by all because of my name”, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul”. And the scariest one is written just before today’s passage, which is actually included in Japanese lectionary for today’s Sunday. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Don’t you think you are lucky that you weren’t the disciples of Jesus at that time? You may be flogged or even killed just by trying to telling people about God’s love and you have to give up your loved ones in order to become a follower of Jesus. I wonder if anyone ran away after he/she heard these words. I may be the first one to cowardly say “I’m sorry, but I want to work from home.”

But by reading today’s passage which was told at the very end of this horrifying speech, I came to understand how much Jesus had loved and trusted his disciples. “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” Isn’t this kind of scary? It is saying that the disciples represent Jesus as Jesus represents God the Father. Come to think about it, the disciples are laden with huge responsibilities. They are commanded to abandon themselves. They don’t belong to themselves any more, but they belong to God. People don’t see them but see Christ through them. Wow.

Do you know of anyone who live like this? The first person who may come up to many people’s mind is, although she is not alive any more, but Mother Teresa. She was born in 1910, and it is said, by age 12, she was convinced that she should commit herself to religious life. At this point already, she seems different from most of us. At age 18, she joined a nunnery in Ireland to learn English to become a missionary in India. Ever since, she never saw her family again. She arrived in India in 1929; after she taught at a convent girls’ school for about 20 years, she was called by Jesus to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them. She took off her traditional nun’s habit and replaced it with a simple white cotton sari with a blue border. She took Indian citizenship, and with a group of young women she founded a new religious community helping the poorest among the poor. The community was called the missionaries of Charity. It cared for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone”. She did these not because she wanted to but because she knew Jesus would do the same thing if he was in her place.

Mother Teresa was literally living God’s will, wearing Christ and giving out a sweet aroma of Christ. Anyone who met her had met Jesus. We may not become like her, not even can come close. But we can try to imitate her which means we imagine what Jesus would do if he were here and put that into an action. You need to neither go to Calcutta nor wear a white sari, nor live in a slum. You just need to be confident in that Jesus is always with you and do what Jesus would do. And that could be the smallest thing as giving a cup of cold water to someone. As one of his disciples, let’s be aware of that we represent Jesus who represents God. God is always sending us the Holy Spirit letting us know that He is always there with us and support our missionary works.

In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.